A new opinion poll suggests Britain’s ruling Conservative party has fallen behind the main opposition Labour party, following the government’s decision to break its election pledge by raising taxes.
A YouGov survey found that backing for the Tories had fallen by five points to 33 percent after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced an increase to national insurance contributions.
The dip sees Labour take the lead on 35 percent—the first time the party has been out in front since January.
Labour takes the lead for the first time since January in our latest Westminster voting intention poll (8-9 Sep)
— YouGov (@YouGov) September 10, 2021
Johnson said the £12 billion ($17 billion) tax hike was needed to reform social care funding and to help the National Health Service (NHS) clear the backlog caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic, the virus that causes COVID-19.
The move goes against a pledge Johnson personally made in the Conservative Party’s election manifesto in 2019, in which he promised not to raise income tax, VAT, or national insurance.
Talking to Sky News on Friday, cabinet minister Oliver Dowden downplayed the poll findings, saying “opinion polls come and go.”
Dowden said he hates putting up taxes—“any Conservative hates putting up taxes.” But he said the alternative would have been “more borrowing, burdening our children and grandchildren.”
He said voters could still “reward” the Tory government at the next election for taking a decision on social care which he argued was designed to “protect the long-term national interest.”
The tax hike has been controversial among Conservative ranks. Five Conservative backbenchers voted against the measure while another 37 did not vote when it was passed in the House of Commons on Wednesday in a 319–248 vote.
In the debate preceding the vote, Tory MP Jake Berry said the measure was “fundamentally un-Conservative” and would “massively damage” the prospects of the Conservative party.
Steve Baker, another Conservative MP, said his party must “rediscover what it stands for” in an age of the ever-expanding welfare state.
Allister Heath, editor of the conservative newspaper The Sunday Telegraph, said Johnson’s government “is no longer Thatcherite, or even conservative: it is Blue Labour.”
In a bizarre reversal of their traditional positions, the Conservative government attacked Labour for voting against the tax rise.
Labour argued that funding the scheme through increasing National Insurance was unfair and a “tax on jobs” and that it would not end the need for people to sell their homes to meet the costs of social care.
PA contributed to this report.